One-time Albion playmaker shares his memories
NAME: Gary Owen
Time at Albion: 1979-1986
I'd been at Manchester City since I was 14 so it was like moving to another country for me. But I was made very welcome as I already knew some of the lads from England Under-21 duty. Even now, looking back, the affection I have for the Club, the fans and the place still lives on with me. I'll always have those special feelings towards the Albion.
We played Millwall in the Milk Cup (in 1983). We'd lost the first leg 3-0 and I don't think anyone really gave us a hope in the return game, but we won 5-1 at The Hawthorns - I even scored a penalty in that game. You can imagine how pleased they were...
Least favourite game:
The 1982 FA Cup semi-final. I'd played against Villa a few days earlier and then found out on the morning of the game that I wasn't playing. It shocked me and the whole team - a few of the senior lads actually went to Ronnie Allen to find out what was happening? And yet Allen never told me why I was dropped to the bench. We lost 1-0 against a team (QPR) we should have beaten. He might have been an Albion legend as a player, but I didn't have much time for him as a manager.
Team mate you'd most like to go for a drink with:
There were some good lads in that side like Cyrille, Ally Rob...but Derek Statham would be the first to get a round and that would be his last round. He didn't like to put his hand in his pocket often.
Who did you share a room with - any annoying habits?
I shared with Peter Barnes when we first moved to West Brom and after that it was anyone who would put up with me. I could never relax before games.
A funny thing happened when...?
Too many to mention. What went on tour, stayed on tour - which is why I've never written a book, to protect the innocent and not-so innocent...
Strangest team-talk you've heard?
We played Arsenal away the one year and in the hotel before the game Big Ron was going to each player, reminding them of their roles. He got to Peter Barnes and suddenly noticed he wasn't there. He turned to me: 'Gary, where's Barnesy?' When I told him I didn't know, he replied, after swearing: 'Well don't tell him...the less he knows, the more chance we have of winning the game.' We drew, and both Barnesy and I scored.
And then there was Ron Saunders. When surrounded by players in training or a game I'd generally bring the ball under control and lay it off to a team-mate. Anyway, Saunders stopped training and told me to stop doing that. My reply was along the lines of: 'You actually want me to stop passing to my team-mates?' He told me to hook it towards the corner-flag, where, he felt, we had a good chance of winning a free-kick or corner. I asked him what would happen if I hooked it towards the goal and added: 'just imagine we could even score a goal!'
Anyway, he snapped, told me to take my bib off and sent me from the field. That was me done. Saunders was rude, arrogant and treated very badly some of the more experienced players who had been at the club for years. He was a bad appointment for the club. I suspect 99 per cent of my team-mates shared my view...
Football now, what would you change?
The offside rule. You're either offside or you're not. And that's how it should be. You can't have a rule where one referee might intepret it differently to another referee. I'd also introduce video technology to help officials.
Three words to describe your Albion experience:
Gary Owen: Can I go with four?
WBA.co.uk: If you like.
Gary Owen: Wouldn't. Change. A. Thing.